Community-Led Planning to Reduce Shoreline Flooding in the South Shore Neighborhood of Chicago

Delta Institute is working with local groups and public agencies to complete in-depth community engagement centered around shoreline resilience planning and implementation for the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. For years this community has been buffeted by extreme weather and Lake Michigan events, and a comprehensive, cohesive community planning process is essential.

Why Our Work is Needed

Lake Michigan has withstood above-average water levels for the past two years, with increasingly extreme weather events. These factors compound efforts by Chicago communities—especially those on the South Side—who are pursuing economic and environmental recovery from systemic failings and legacy injustices. Often these efforts have taken parallel yet unconnected paths, leading to the lack of a unified, collaborative, and inclusive approach to creating a resident-led shoreline community resilience plan. Though there are multiple planning processes that have occurred at the City- and State-level, there is not a community-based plan that unifies these currently separate processes. Delta Institute is collaboratively developing the creation of a South Side Shoreline Community Resilience Plan, using the South Shore neighborhood as a template to utilize this planning process throughout the entire metropolitan region. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and municipal agencies will partner to ensure these efforts are relevant throughout the Lake Michigan shoreline, as well as statewide resilience efforts in under-resourced communities bordering water bodies to ensure landscape-scale benefits.

Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Delta Institute is partnering with local and regional agencies to complete in-depth community engagement centered around coastal resilience planning and implementation for the South Shore neighborhood. Delta is achieving this through our convening and facilitation expertise, data analysis and visualization, technical, planning and policy assistance, business research and modeling, and activity coordination of complex projects with many stakeholders. Delta is providing shoreline analysis, design consulting management, investment and financing assessment, and the authorship of a robust resilience plan with achievable and immediately actionable recommendations. The overall objectives of this project are to create an outreach, education, and engagement process with community groups and stakeholders impacted by Lake Michigan storms while identifying a clear path forward to address identified resilience needs—inclusive of shoreline habitat preservation and creation. Our priority is to create an actionable strategy and to align with the many planning and engagement processes without being redundant or duplicative. Efforts will include and dovetail with the City of Chicago’s South Shore Corridor study, as well as the Lake Michigan High Water Level Shoreline Assessment commissioned by CPD and the Chicago Department of Transportation (July 2020). CPD’s 2018 South Lakefront Framework Plan will also sizably inform—and correlate—to our community resilience planning efforts.

Shoreline view on E. 73rd St, South Shore
Infrastructure needs on E. 73rd St. at the shoreline
Private Residences at Arthur Ashe Beach Park
Breakwater at Arthur Ashe Beach Park, 2701 E. 74th St.


We at Delta Institute thank those at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for selecting us to manage this important project. We would also like to thank our many project partners, including Sierra Club – Illinois Chapter, a local resident stakeholder group, state agency representatives, aldermanic representatives, along with many community organizations for contributing their thoughts and acumen.

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